The discussion about how COVID has affected the non-profit world is not a new one. When the pandemic hit in 2020, most non-profits also lost the ability to hold in-person events – a major source of fundraising for so many organizations. While many non-profits have shifted to a content-sharing model on social media and tried to hold events via platforms like Zoom and Hopin, it has been hard to build and maintain a meaningful audience connection. 

So how can non-profits increase empathy, build new relationships, maintain existing supporter relationships, and raise funds creatively? Non-profits need to find ways to create more immersive programming. But what does that even mean and how would it work for non-profits?

Here are three creative ways non-profits can drive donations and build better supporter and sponsor relationships.

Create a fundraising experience that is available 24/7

Traditionally, events last a few hours. It takes A LOT of planning leading up to it and then once the event is done, most non-profit organizations hope that they have made enough money after hard costs to last until the next event (which is often a year away!). Shifting the focus to a more digital immersive experience will allow non-profits to continue fundraising long after a kick-off event, or even have a fundraising push for a few weeks instead of a few hours. Stretching a fundraising initiative out for this length of time allows non-profits to provide more COVID-safe programming and puts less strain on existing organizational resources. Plus, you can do some really cool things when you add a digital element in the right ways!

Imagine an exhilarating self-guided driving experience designed to have supporters make pit stops activated with challenges and activities all delivered through a smartphone. Not only could it be available 24/7 as an experience that could be purchased with a donation, but you can also connect with sponsors who would be able to enjoy more foot traffic if they were part of the pit stop activity. A restaurant could be a location to battle villains while picking up food supplies. A storefront can be the source of the next clue in your adventure. 

Even if you are looking for something a little more simple, consider a walking or driving tour that highlights your cause and the stories behind the work that you do. The best part? Because these experiences are digital, they can be live 24/7 and you don’t need to have staff on hand to guide them. You can even add a digital donation button with sponsor logos that will be available in the long-term.

With the digital element, you will also be able to tap into more data about what your audience does and doesn’t empathize with and respond to… and even just find out what gets them excited. This can help you plan future programming and show specific value to sponsors.

Tap into your community’s stories

Non-profits are largely driven by stories – personal stories of tragedy and inspiration, community stories that showcase culture and experience, stories that inspire change, and so many more. Told in the right ways, stories can help to bridge cultural divides and inspire empathy among supporters. The goal is to put people in the shoes of those you are trying to help. While the people in your stories are unique, one way to draw supporters in is by tying the stories of your community to specific locations so that supporters can feel the weight of the stories you are trying to tell.

Narrative Mapping is a great way to anchor the stories to the community!

Narrative mapping (a buzzword that you should get to know!) is when you collect stories from your community and tie them directly to real world locations. When told in this way, your stories are anchored to your community and supporters have a way to experience things first-hand. They can literally see the stories unfolding around them rather than just seeing an image on a social media feed or reading a blog. Suddenly the stories are so REAL.

Choosing to focus on storytelling in this way will help non-profit organizations develop programming that will utilize public spaces through locative experiences. Non-profits need to think beyond traditional storytelling perspectives through books, movies, and media to embrace a more powerful way to tell stories that are not just contributing to the noise that other media like games, entertainment, or memes create. Your supporters will feel more empathy and be moved by your cause. When your supporters feel more connected to your cause, they will be more likely to donate to it. 

Personalize your initiatives 

Fundraising initiatives are always more successful if you can personalize the experience as much as possible. It can be hard to create personalized experiences when non-profits have budgets that are already stretched thin. But empathy is a catalyst for change and creating personalized experiences will encourage people to take action. There are two main ways to create more personal experiences that are accessible to non-profits:

  • Encourage supporters to share their own story on social media: It’s not always about sharing content for your supporters to see. Sometimes you want your supporters to tell your story in their own words. Encouraging them to share content on social media that highlights their experiences not only humanizes your cause, but it also builds trust within your community.
  • Create a real world/digital hybrid experience: Creating this type of immersive experience allows for more personalization regarding timing, interpretation, and experience outcomes. A hybrid digital experience means that supporters can experience it at any time of the day in their own time. Not only is this great for a personalized experience, it’s also COVID-safe and will allow more people to experience the programming you have created.

A great example of a personalized initiative is The Mustard Seed’s Coldest Night of the Year experience. This social walk was designed to highlight powerful stories of homelessness while raising money for charities serving people experiencing homelessness and hunger. Not only were they able to raise money over a 6-month period, but the initiative was also successful in educating and training volunteers, students, and the community at large about the challenges the community is facing. These powerful stories of homelessness and hope told on these walks resulted in the most positive feedback and engagement they had received since the pandemic began.

How can Story City Help?

Story City is an award-winning, interactive platform and app that combines location-based storytelling with a digital experience. We can help you seamlessly meld the physical and digital worlds to create memorable experiences that will be available to your supporters 24/7, far beyond any fundraising initiative time frame you could imagine. On top of that, we can help you plan and execute your event for a fraction of the cost that you would have spent.

With over 25,000 users and 300 creators on the platform so far, we’re growing experience by experience and we welcome you to explore how you can make your next event not only COVID-safe, but also something that your supporters will never forget. To find out more about Story City or to partner with us for your next event, contact us today.